Stiff competition from big-box pharmacies and an increasing workload compounded by increasingly stringent regulations are just a few challenges this Maryville, Tennessee-based business faces day to day.
Independent community pharmacies have been feeling the squeeze for some time and Blount Discount Pharmacy is no exception.
Phil LaFoy co-owns Blount Discount Pharmacy with fellow pharmacist Aaron Clark. LaFoy and Clark started working for Blount Discount Pharmacy in 1996.
Despite the daunting challenges and pressures of running an independent community pharmacy, the overarching mission of serving the local community drives the staff to deliver top-quality service.
“It is a high calling to provide the services we provide,” LaFoy says. “It’s very personal. We’re talking about healthcare. You get to know about people on a deeper level.”
LaFoy sees value in teaming up with NFIB and other associations [such as the National Community Pharmacists Association] that look out for the interests of small businesses. NFIB has a heightened awareness of the small business perspective, LaFoy says.
“NFIB is our voice in Washington D.C. They’ve gained the trust of those there and when they speak, people listen. There’s a credibility factor there that I as an individual can’t create,” he says.
Community pharmacies grapple with regulatory requirements that have nothing to do with filling prescriptions, LaFoy says.
One example is a monthly screening of all its employees through a national database. The purpose is to prevent fraud and make sure employees are qualified to work, but it adds a burdensome layer of paperwork bureaucracy for a small business, costing time and money.
Although it’s a much smaller operation compared with big-box retail pharmacies, Blount Discount Pharmacy works to be “very competitive with big box.”
“The big thing today is diversification,” LaFoy says, “You’ve got to figure out ‘What can we do to remain viable in the industry?’ If all you’re doing today is filling prescriptions, it’s hard. It’s very hard to survive just because of the pressures.”
Blount Discount Pharmacy was founded in 1982 by Roger Givens. Givens brought on more partners, Jim Pershing and Terry Webb, who have since retired. The business expanded over time with three retail locations and a long-term health specialty pharmacy. Today, the staff has grown to 80 employees, which includes pharmacists, technicians and drivers.
LaFoy takes pride in knowing that Blount Discount Pharmacy is well-versed in the needs of the community it serves and offers programs and services that best address those needs. Such programs include diabetes self-management education and long-term healthcare.